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Supporters To Rally In Oakland For Activist Arrested For 'Bicycling While Black'

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- Supporters of Najari Smith, a Richmond bicycling activist who was arrested while leading a group bike ride in Oakland this month, were scheduled to rally on his behalf at Oakland's Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse Friday.

The rally was planned to coincide with a court appearance by Smith. However, Alameda County District Attorney spokeswoman Teresa Drenick indicated late Thursday Smith does not need to appear in court as charges against him have been dropped.

Smith, 39, was arrested Aug. 3 shortly after the monthly First Friday art festival on Telegraph Avenue. Police said he was impeding traffic, playing music too loudly and failed to provide identification, and he was jailed for two days.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley declined to file charges against Smith after Richmond Mayor Tom Butt sent her a letter on Smith's behalf.

"This looks like a case of bicycling while black," Butt said in his letter to O'Malley.

Civil rights attorney Walter Riley has agreed to represent Smith for free.

According to Oakland police spokeswoman Felicia Aisthorpe, on Aug.  3, Oakland police observed Smith impeding traffic at the intersection of West Grand Avenue and Telegraph.

Aisthorpe said Smith's sound system was audible over 50 feet away, an infraction of the state's Vehicle Code.

She also said that Smith refused to provide identification and was arrested for that reason, and provided false information to the officers trying to identify him.

Smith, 39, founded the bicycling organization Rich City Rides in 2012 and serves as its executive director. The organization encourages bicycling as a healthy lifestyle choice, provides instructions in bike mechanics to young people in Richmond and gives them an opportunity to earn bikes through volunteering.

Smith is also a member of the Richmond Bicycle / Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

"Najari Smith is an extremely thoughtful, collaborative and caring person," Butt said in his letter. "He is widely respected throughout the Richmond community."

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